MY CITY OF CULTURE – MY HULL – WEEK 19

Another Hull City Of Culture 2017 week has gone by – for me it sometimes feels like I am unaware of so many things happening and my challenge is becoming content-less.

My excuses are workload and prioritising/juggling the life of newly established photographer.

This week I wanted to pay a visit to Artlink Hull, capture some people action in Queen Victoria square and Film&Talk: Dancing with Strangers:From Calais to England [unfortunately I exchanged this activity for Disney’s Beauty and the Beast with family].

On Friday I also went down to Hull University for Death Cafe. From a professional/personal point the gathering was so important. For those who have been following me are aware of my photographic END OF LIFE CELEBRATIONS project. The project touches my heart strings, I don’t think that I have ever had such a deep affection with what I am doing as that, so it was good to be surrounded by people who don’t think I am a weird bird. I was also able to reflect on importance of the subject of end of life and death in our lives and that the imagery I have taken has got an original quality.

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The event took place in Derwent building, so I was thrown into this beautiful world of picturesque scenes. For that reason I thought I’ll try and capture some more and celebrate the cityscape of Hull.

 

Artlink Hull was hosting a Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary Shortlist, weeks before the winner exhibits a single exhibition.

Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary offers a bursary and three month residency at high profile gallery to mid-career disabled visual artists based in the UK.

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Anna Berry

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Anna Berry

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I found that this exhibition was quite intimate and with a lot of personal reflections, so enjoyed it with my eyes, rather than behind the lens.

My favourite was Aidan Moesby’s Syndrome (ii). His work explores the Lima And Stockholm Syndromes. For me it was a throwback to the years when I was trying really hard to understand chemistry and the Periodic Table. What the artist has done – every element has a emotion/feeling underpinned and that is what I was feeling when going through it for exams and stuff.
It was a lovely reminder of why I have gone into photography.

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Artlink Hull is a very lovely space with lovely members of staff, so I hope I can go back in the future for some exciting things.

Over the weekend I managed to get out for a bit and I was rewarded – the light seemed to adjust to what I would like to see. It was like I was in control of it.
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It is valuable to see the ever changing city in a good light – we all look better when we are lit with light the right way.

 

This week I am super excited to be going to Depart on Saturday, so that will most likely be my highlight. But if I can I will squeeze in a visit to Ground down Beverley Road, cos that has been on my wishlist for weeks, also the The Train Track and Basket – Claire Barber is on my list.

FOR THE LOVE OF LIFE: PRESENT AND FUTURE PLANS

I sack off tomorrow. I am going to Latvia, my home and heart. Before I leave everyone for 2 1/2 weeks, I would like to give a quick update of what has been going on, what I will be up to for two weeks and what are my future plans.

 

For the past month I have been living a post-student life and so many great things have happened. I have left the student-hood and got my life back. Suddenly I can absorb the world around me. The seasons have changed from autumn to winter, to spring and yes, July have arrived quickly.

First great and awesome thing – the hard work over three years have summed up in First Class Honours and yesterday in the post I got the actual scores, so it is not just a mistake. I am super happy.

After the Degree show, I presented “End Of Life” celebration project at Manchester Hothouse Redeye event,photographed Hull 10K, been to Jazz Comedy Night in Hull, become an official volunteer at the Dove House Hospice and have got some pretty amazing photography jobs…. a lot has happened.

Starting in August I will start working even harder and have so many plans.

First –  I will release wedding, engagement, family photo shoot and pet photo shoot packages. I have to start make some money out of this fantastic talent I have [education too hehe] and I have to be open minded.

I will continue to photograph as volunteer at different kind of events to celebrate life and people, because that is who I am and hopefully will have enough time to explore the world through the lens.

 

Currently working on collaborating with Freedom Festival and pre-festival events, will be at the Humber Street Sesh in August, will continue working with Eskimosoup and hopefully will officially become a freelance photographer.

 

Most important – “End Of Life” project is on the top of the list.
I am currently pausing the grave yard and funeral part, but will be working towards celebrating end of life in work collaboration with Dove House Hospice and explore people that either have a life limiting illness or experience someone else having life limiting illness. I will be looking at celebrating life lived, legacy left behind and other great things that we can think of in the means of life. I will be speaking with people, sharing my views and project and really want to open up this difficult subject of death and end of life to a broader spectrum of people.

Although I say I have paused the funeral and cemetery photography, I will be photograph and explore the core of the project – cultural differences between Latvian and British.

For the first time, my time in Latvia is not going to be just about leisure and taking holiday snaps. As the origins of “End Of Life” project comes directly from my Latvian heritage, I feel the urge to work on the project whilst there and bring back my vision of the subject of death and how open-minded [or not] Latvians and Eastern cultures are.
Whilst visiting Latvia I have selection of photographs that are defining visual of death and end of life subject in British culture and will recreate them in Latvia.
I also hope to have a quick visit to at least one grave yards in Lithuania and Estonia.

Plus, I have an ambitious plan to contact and visit Riga Eastern Clinical University Hospital Pathology Centre slash morgue and embrace the darkest part of end of life.

My professional life relies on WordPress blog, Facebook page. I feel like I need to reconstruct my blog and have an additional online portfolio.

As you may have noticed, my Facebook page is fairly new – still working on it.

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Whilst I will be in Latvia, I will continue organically extend my “HOME GLORY” ongoing series and will create master pieces that are truly and utterly my kind of Latvian.

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There is that one last thing I will be doing on the day before I fly off – Before I Die Wall @Hull Pride tomorrow from 1 pm.

I will be there early to photograph setting up and you might see those photos as early as 9 am and later on the day I will be at the Hull Pride.

IN THE MEANTIME – LIVE LOVE CHANGE LIFE.

Redeye Hothouse 2016

On the 18th of June Redeye, The Photography Network organised Hothouse in Manchester.
I have briefly mentioned the event before, but Hothouse gives any kind of photographer an opportunity to present their work in front of other photographers, interests and artists.

I applied back in May to present my “End Of Life” celebration project – give the project life after the course.
I previously considered to put myself forward for similar shaped event in Hull – Illuminate, but I never had the “body” of work, something that is more than just photographs.
“End Of Life” has been a project with a greater meaning and I have been personally involved in every bit of it. I often call it my “baby”, something that I’ve done from the depths of my heart and really want to continue explore the end of life stages.
Redeye were interested and I was invited to speak and present my controversial [to some] project.

For weeks I was excited and nervous and the day before I prepared for the presentation.
I created a PowerPoint presentation and the plan was to accomplish that with my own words.

I prepared topics to talk about for each slide, taking in account that I have to explain the whole thing in just 10 minutes. Real challenge to present this project in such short time – it took me four months to get this project down to paper and fully acknowledge.

Anway…
The day came quickly and we [my boyfriend was the assistant, driver and supporter for the whole day] set of early.

We arrived at the venue first, I was not too shocked by that – I like to be an early bird.
We signed in, settled the postcards and decided to have a little walk around Manchester.

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In a separate post I will show you the grungy and beautiful area of Manchester where the Hothouse took place.

The part of Manchester where TheStudio HIVE was impressive. It was different than similar areas in Hull, there was so many studios, galleries and cafes linked to art. At one point I even went into Arts Council England.

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After a short walk and coffee, I went back to settle down and get ready to present. I was second to speak from 16 other photographers.
I was not nervous at all before the actual presentation – I got it covered, because I know the project inside out. Ha!-the nerves kicked in after I stepped on to the pedestal.

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My boyfriend filmed the presentation which I still haven’t looked back at – there are few reasons.
The nerves took over the common sense and I even did not look at the notes – my head was full of secondary warnings – look at the notes, calm down. I think I communicated well, there was a few moments where I did not make sense [I think], but overall I told the story. I missed few important facts, but overall people had a really good reaction.

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It is important to note that after the first speaker, Mark Peachy, there was no questions. It might have been because he gave enough facts and explained the project and photographs fully…or it was ..erm…average. Not sure.
When I finished the presentation there was so many hands up – this is my favourite part about the “End Of Life” project -the discussion and constructive criticism.

I was super excited to hear what people thought and any comments that could improve my future work.

There was a lot of positive reactions and some said – leave the Martin Parr approach and focus on what you already do – beautiful captures of the end of life. Ahh, really good comment, because I might have already organically stepped away from that original idea, but not realised just yet.

In the first section I had an opportunity to see other two photographers and than in a break time – reflect on the presentation and the speech.

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In the break times – in total there was four brakes between the sections where people can gather for a chat, discuss the portfolios and presentations, and make friends.

There was quite a few people approaching me with feedback, questions. One of them was Dr. Afzal Ansary a representative from Royal Photographic Society. He congratulated me on good presentation and great project. He gave me some constructive criticism and said I need to start focus on one or two major project parts and start narrowing down the ideas.
He also invited me to present the “End Of Life” project at the RPA event in July. I was my honour and was feeling the excitement, although I realised I will be away when the event is on. I still need to get in touch with him and propose to present at other RPS events in the future.

In whole-the day was so good, overwhelming and educating. I did think that my project stood out definitely and I feel like I can continue now.

I will also briefly go through my favourite photographers and their projects.

Mara Acoma

Mara Acoma was presenting two projects and both were really interesting and captivating. Both projects are part of her MA so I was kind of relating with her, as mine is part of BA.

The Etropy Garden – The Entropy Garden is an art project as well as a real garden. The project is looking at how nature takes over the man-made.

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This image is from her website and although it is not the final image, I really love the actual image as it essentially shows her as an artist.

E/utopia is the second project Mara presented. The e/utopia project is an exploration of the ideas of utopia and eutopia.  It explores the idea of a journey to e/utopia and how such a unique journey can also be universal.

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Mark Epstein

Mark Epstein is a documentary photographer and senior language tutor at the University of Manchester. Combining images and text, A Random Walk to Graphene is a window onto working lives and the vision of those engaged in a remarkable enterprise.

When searching for his website and online photographic presence, I have discovered that he is actually a proper documentary photographer with the stunning images. You can check out his website here: Mark Epstein

My notes from the event says – “his presence is astonishing and text really accomplishes the photographs. He doesn’t realise his potential.” But by looking at his website – he was not revealing the full story.

Drew Forsyth

Drew Forsyth is a photographer from Manchester.

In the Hothouse, Drew presented his dance photography work, which was brilliant, but he is versatile and talented commercial and portrait photographer.

He say’s about his dance photography:
“Whenever I’m asked about the kind of work I like to make, dance is always the first thing I say. Working with an amazing dancer is like working with an amazing athlete. Their tireless perfectionism, attention to detail and stamina is just something else, and these guys won’t stop until they get breathtaking images – and neither will I.”

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The photographs presented had a hint of commercial photographer, but I found it fascinating that he is able to connect these two genres and create stunning and precise images of dancers.

Elaine Duignenan

Elaine Duignenan is a photographic artist based in London. She has exhibited internationally and has work in collections which include the V&A and The Museum of Fine Art in Houston. Her work is represented by Klompching Gallery in New York. Alongside making her own series of work for exhibition, she undertakes artist residencies and works alongside institutions such as Wellcome Collection to devise and deliver special projects. In late 2009 one of her images was flown to space by Astronaut Leland Melvin on the Space Shuttle Atlantis.

Before she presented her work, I was chatting with her and she seemed to be nervous and really worried if she can deliver. Well… I have a feeling that she was being too harsh to her work, but looking at the facts that her work is exhibited in New York – no worries.

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The work Blossfeldt’s Apprentice is her painstakingly made objects out of twisty ties in attempt to recreate Karl Blossfelddt’s iconic plant structures.

An interesting thing about her presentation and work was the technique in what the objects are photographed in. All the way through I thought it might be scannography, although one image looked like being photographed. And at the end someone asked the technique and I was right – she uses advanced scanner. It is amazing to see how the scanner has picked up such precise detail.

She was also really lovely and gave me a good feedback to my “End Of Life” and the whole interest in death, funerals, grave yards and end of life.

I kind of felt like the conversation between artists about my project means more than the conversation I rise in public…I need both sides to take part in my journey, so it was so good to see some external views from artists perspective.

 

Lee Price

Lee Price is another speaker from the event.
There is not a lot of information about him available, but the project “Against the Order of Nature”  is the focus point.
“My work predominantly focuses on the male form, often exploring the sociological and politically influenced attitudes and reactions to sexuality, amongst the public and in the media. This can range from commentary on the cultural exploitation of sex and sexuality to the impact of social responses to sexual orientation and expression. I like to pose questions and provoke reactions within my work, hopefully raising debate surrounding issues I feel ought to be addressed for one reason or another.”

There is no doubt about the subject matter and the questions and awareness he raises with his series.

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My notes on the booklet says – How can you make a topic/issue like that photographically different from other work done previously?
I found that the topic of the series was more powerful than the photographs. But he has definitely been through an eye-opening journey and has been deeply involved with the people in Uganda.

Lee was clearly not used to public speaking so the video he showed at the end gave the series more context.

 

Natalie Wardle

Natalie Wardle  can be described in one word – ace!! Her presence at first felt really “over the top”, but I kind of fell in love with her during those 10 minutes.

Control was the project she presented and her work explores and questions femininity, the things females go through to fit society’s ideal body type. I focus on the way clothing can constrict the female body. Focusing on undergarments such as control pants I present a humorous reflection on how the clothing meant to improve ones look is actually rather unflattering to look at on its own.

Another thing she mentioned was the Tit Tape project that I found fascinating.

 

The reason why I really, really enjoyed her presentation and work was the rawness and originality. Natalie is following her passion and I closely related to her – as crazy as your “dream” project can be, as long as you stick to your guns and passion, you can deliver extraordinary images and story.

She is one of the presenters that I am curious about and will follow her work to see what she does in the future.

 

Keeley Bentley

Keeley Bentley has currently graduating from her Ba Hons in Photography at Blackpool & the Fylde College, she is then moving onto a MA in Photography at Manchester School of Art in September 2016.

Her work is described as “this work sits on the cusp of where a girl is available and when she is not – Lolita Lust” 

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Keeley uses Medium format film camera – brilliant, image series are beautiful and clever. She bases a lot of her work on books, fictions, so as this one.

During her presentation, Keeley revealed that she prefers not to talk about Lolita Lust and allow viewers to make up their own stories around the photographs.

Chris Bethell

Christopher Bethell and his personal photo series about his search for the truth about his grandfather – Chris is dual-national; both citizen of The United Kingdom and The United States. Until three years ago Chris believed an elaborate fiction about his family’s history. Last year he stepped foot into America for the first time, following Granfather’s path from east to west.

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Chris Bethell’s story written in the blog is even more capturing than the photographs, and at the event I was stunned by his work. This must be the place is a captivating story, beautifully captured by Chris.

He has done a really good job of protecting is images and so to those who are interested- check out his website/blog.

At the event I admired his photographs -down to earth and real. It feels as if he has copied what the eye see’s and some how got that on photo paper – it does sound strange, but that is how I felt.
And whilst trying to nick some images, I have discovered more extraordinary captures of the world around us.

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Another reason why I loved his work was the ability to relate. Hi is searching for answers through photographs and I kind of do that myself. My project is different, but the common elements are linking each other.

 

 

On the day, there was more photographers than you can see here, but I though I keep this short and sweet.

 

Excellent organisation from Redeye and TheStudio. I really hope to go back on day and maybe join the Redeye Photographic network.

There was a few sudden reflections from myself and my project.

I took “End of Life” project out of its usual frame – Hull, Uni, people close to the project and the known environment where it was born in the first place and suddenly it changed its shape.
I discovered that I have put a very personal and Latvian bias on the project and that I should continue to focus on the cultural differences, because that is what makes this photographically attractive to others. And I also have to give myself a pat on the back – considering the limitations and circumstances I have at least 15 great images.
Also, as mentioned at the beginning – keep the love for Martin Parr, but never mention the relationship between my love for Martin Parr and “End of Life” in the same sentence. It is only me that can understand why and in all fairness  – in the back of my head – have I really used that approach? This is another exploration awaiting.

 

It was my honour to be able to present the project to a different audience and I look forward to continue working on “End Of Life”.

Next thing – Latvia and image revisit images taken in the United Kingdom.

In the next couple of weeks I will also be official volunteer at the Dove House Hospice and get stuck in on “End Of Life”.

WEEKLY REFLECTION #35

HEDON ROAD CEMETERY AND PHOTO SHOOT

After my last grave yard visit I thought I am not going back for a while, but an idea was born. What if I stage something, re-create something that I have been doing by sneaking around bushes..?

I managed to find the best person for the job and arranged the a little meeting up to test my staging skills.

The message I sent to the person was one of the strangest for both of us: “I look forward to seeing you in the grave yard” haha

Anyway – the other main reason for the photo shoot was the Redeye Manchester Hothouse Opportunity to present photographic work. I applied to be part of the event and show case my “End Of Life” celebrations project as for the first time I had a body of work that deserves a bit of recognition and life after Final Major Project submission.

I sent the best photographs, but explained that due to the project being on going, I might have a different content by the time I have submit the presentation.

I wrote the following:

Hi, 
My name is Anete and I am a photographer. 
I am currently in my last two months of completing a BA (Hons) Photography course at Hull School of Art&Design.

I am submitting a body of work or a project that is also my Final Major project.
The project is about life and death, celebrating life lived and life left behind. The starting point of this project was to explore the concept of Funeral Photography, photograph funerals in the same way it is accepted to photograph weddings. Project is evolving into a ongoing body of work and the subjects are ranging from crashing funerals, visiting cemeteries, photographing momento mori, photographic visits to the morgue and reflecting my own vision of how I see the subject, taking in account my multi-cultural experiences and thought processes. 
In the past few moths I have learned that the subject of death is taboo, but as I keep approaching people and speak openly about it through photography, the interest is growing and people start to share their personal experiences.

By the 18th of June project will have reached different level and I will have more photographs.

Kindest
Anete Sooda

I received a positive response and was expected to part of the event. YAAY!!!

And I still had no new images to my project.

The grave yard itself was one of my favourites and it was suitable to a photo shoot due to its size and location.

It was strange and weird to be asking someone to pose grieving and mourning next to the graves that belongs to personal experience to someone.

But I had he right person for the job. My friend understood my project and have had his own personal experiences with death, loss and the “dark side” of the life. He was into similar subjects and even considers collaborating with me and Dove House Hospice in order to change the opinion about discussing death and end of life openly.

I had a vision in my head of what I would like to see in the viewfinder, but it is much more easier to be said than done.

We also discovered the true magic behind this cemetery -it was a lot more bigger than we thought. There was a small church at the back and area for cremated burials that looked like a cave in the middle of Neverland.

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Beautiful and full of surprises – HEDON ROAD CEMETERY.

I ended up with few good images that represent a personal and special moment in time, when we come and visit our loved ones and seek for peace and quiet.

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The image below was chosen to be image for the Manchester Hothouse main application and will be the face of my project?!

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Thank you to my friend for not thinking about me as a crazy and disrespectful. Thank you for following my lead and chipping in the ideas and image creation.

This sort of working method is not ideal, because in a sense it is staged and not real, although we can all argue that we all can relate to this kind of experience.
It was worth a try and I might even do this again, but create a story board.

WEEKLY REFLECTION #20

ANOTHER DAY ANOTHER TUTORIAL – REFLECTIONS

This week I was productive so far and things were going in the right direction.

Tutorials are an important part of the course. The communication with tutor is essential, as they help to clarify the important parts of the project, gives feedback on work done and also most of the time works as ideas generation.

Andy [tutor] knows my project in depth, so I never miss a chance on sharing the latest project updates.

This week I had to discuss the grave yard visits, show imagery and talk through the radio show appearance.

Andy has looked through my proposal and noted that I have to clarify the cultural angle in more detail, so the listeners understand why I am doing this project and why I don’t consider this as taboo.

We also discussed if Latvian funeral culture has remained its aspects of photographing dead bodies in coffin and display funeral photographs. Additional research needed on this one, as I am not 100% sure if other fellow Latvian families are as crazy as mine, just to be clear.

As originally I asked Andy to join the radio show as a support, second opinion and to ease the nerves, in this tutorial it appeared that I might have to go on my own [yikes].

 

Apart from the radio show and getting feedback on my grave yard images, we continued to generate new aspects and ideas for the END OF LIFE project.

Just to say, that Andy is a great example of a great tutor. Knowing my project, Andy does some research and helps us to improve, by looking at different artists and ideas execution.

There are artists who in the past have added smells to photographs to extend the viewing and absorbing experience.

The funeral photographs from my family archive has got a smell. So as my grandma’s old cabinet were she used to keep her things. Or her old clothes.

These images are accompanied with the smell and it adds to the effect they give to my brain cells when I look at them.

So if I could find a definite smell that reflects the photographing experience or relative experiences regards to the image content that could be great.

For example, if I photographed someone’s ashes, I could either add the smell of the ashes or smell of that person -perfume, natural scent….

Photographer Frieke Janssens, who exhibited in Photography Festival in Hull in October with “Dianas” has an interesting and relevant to me series of photographs called “Your Last Shot”

She explains:

“No one likes to think about their own death. And especially not about the photo they will be remembered by on their grave. Photographer Frieke Janssens wants to change people’s mindsets when it comes to that particular photo: ‘your last shot’.

“In reality, those left behind need to find a photo quickly that is ‘ok’ and usually it requires some Photoshop retouching. And the question remains: how would the deceased feel about this photo? Maybe he or she would have untagged themselves from it?”

The series of ‘Your Last Shot’ will reflect a combination of the portrayed’s wishes and the photographer’s style. “My personal preference goes to static portraits as they were taken at the occasion of weddings at the beginning of the 20th century. My aim is to make an iconic portrait that is beautiful, serene and fearless, preferably with a gentle smile, indicating that the model is clearly aware of the fact that this portrait will be used for a very long time to come.”

Sinister? “Not really, life and death are inevitably linked. In Belgium there still seems to be a taboo around the thought of death. As a photographer, I feel that the moment when one reflects about their own death is a precious moment to be shared and portrayed.”

The portrayed will receive their ‘last portrait’ printed on porcelain, so that it actually can be used when the time has come. Which is hopefully many years from now.

“In each series, I try to make people reflect on a specific subject. Should we not care more about that one photo that will be used infinitely? Would you not prefer to choose that photo yourself? By the way, it strikes me that, when people visit someone’s grave, they like to take a walk through the entire cemetery. And what do they do? Indeed, looking at the pictures.”

Source:
Frieke Janssens “YOUR LAST SHOT”

After seeing her work and meeting her, I did think that she is a bit bonkers, but these series prove that she is amazing and extraordinary photographer.

She is pointing out important aspects, the one’s I am looking at:

  • We don’t like to think about our death or death in general.
  • Life and death are linked together closely, no one lives forever and death is just an end of a cycle.
  • It is interesting to see that she takes in account the cemeteries and where the images that she is taking, end up. And reflecting on my visits to grave yards, she is right – people walk around the entire cemetery and look at the pictures. We like visual elements around us, we respond to them a lot quicker than to texts. For example, if someone get’s a new book, first thing they do – flick through pages looking for images that might give hints to what the book is about. Interesting discovery indeed.

I really really like her photographs from the series, she keeps her distinctive style and creates a little magic around the personalities.

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She is achieving the perfect image and the perfect reflection of the person – and she was taking in account the wishes of the person in the photo. They are looking fresh, beautiful, polished and proud.

The project is a reflection of how the society and the acceptance are changing in the 21st Century.

This also [than you] is backing up my idea that people are ready to talk about expiring and dying.

 

 

Andy also mentioned company named “photowonder” and they specialize in making digital videos of funerals as a keepsake and memorium.

As I was looking for that some interesting research come up:

Pinterest has Burial-Funeral Services photographic section, and whilst flicking through I discovered a lot of interesting image content, some badly photographed and some a bit plain…but these images exist and we can PIN THEM.

Burial and Funeral Services on Pinterest

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Another website gives seven suggestions about Funeral keepsakes:

  • Framed photographs

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  • Pre-Planned Memorial Photography

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  • Engraved Photo Cremation Urns

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  • Painted Portrait Photo Memorials

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  • Memorial Photo Collages

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  • Photo Memorial Coin Keepsakes

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  • Memorial Photo Plaques

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I can spot the potential in making some of these as products/services in addition to just a funeral photographs. And I have to say that the images or presentation could be improved with better image and design [apart from Frieke Janssens, the rest-sorry].

Source:
7 Unique Funeral Pictures & Keepsakes

For the final part of the tutorial, we continued the discussion about funerals and wakes being a social event, therefore it can be photographed as any other event, taking in account the occasion and behave appropriately.
Ideally my approach would be “Martin Parr style”, but that would be hidden behind a professional approach and sensitive handling due to people’s needs.